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April 12, 2011 9:54 PM   Subscribe

Why is the Federal Reserve forking over $220 million in bailout money to the wives of two Morgan Stanley bigwigs? The Real Housewives of Wall Street (via)

if you want to get a true sense of what the "shadow budget" is all about, all you have to do is look closely at the taxpayer money handed over to a single company that goes by a seemingly innocuous name: Waterfall TALF Opportunity. At first glance, Waterfall's haul doesn't seem all that huge — just nine loans totaling some $220 million, made through a Fed bailout program. That doesn't seem like a whole lot, considering that Goldman Sachs alone received roughly $800 billion in loans from the Fed. But upon closer inspection, Waterfall TALF Opportunity boasts a couple of interesting names among its chief investors: Christy Mack and Susan Karches.

Christy is the wife of John Mack, the chairman of Morgan Stanley. Susan is the widow of Peter Karches, a close friend of the Macks who served as president of Morgan Stanley's investment-banking division. Neither woman appears to have any serious history in business, apart from a few philanthropic experiences. Yet the Federal Reserve handed them both low-interest loans of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars through a complicated bailout program that virtually guaranteed them millions in risk-free income.

[...]

The public has no way of knowing how much Christy Mack and Susan Karches earned on these transactions, because the Fed has repeatedly declined to provide any information about how it priced the individual securities bought as part of programs like TALF. In the Waterfall deal, for instance, we know the Fed pledged some $14 million against a block of securities called "Credit Suisse Commercial Mortgage Trust Series 2007-C2" — but that data is meaningless without knowing how many units were bought. It's like saying the Fed gave Waterfall $14 million to buy cars. Did Waterfall pay $5,000 per car, or $500,000? We have no idea. "There's no way of validating or invalidating the Fed's process in TALF without this pricing information," says Gary Aguirre, a former SEC official who was fired years ago after he tried to interview John Mack in an insider-trading case.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream (111 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
$220million to two white women = bailout

$317million to Title X Family Planning = socialism
posted by hippybear at 10:00 PM on April 12, 2011 [137 favorites]


Her major philanthropic passion is endowments for alternative medicine, and she has attained the level of master at Reiki, the Japanese practice of "palm healing."

/facepalm


Hey, my brain cancer is gone!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:00 PM on April 12, 2011 [93 favorites]


Interesting. Inexplicable transactions notwithstanding, I was thinking about this the other day. When a bank borrows money from the fed at 0%, then lends it out at x%, it makes a profit of x% - y% where y is the likelyhood of a default on that loan, in this case mostly credit cards and mortgages, along with business loans. I kind of doubt the default rates on credit cards is really, say 29% or whatever.

Now one argument for the bailouts and pumping money into the system is that these banks need to build up their balance sheets in order to feel comfortable lending out. The TARP is a political problem. So they borrow from the FED and then lend it out at a huge profit, refill their ballance sheets and pay back the government.

But they keep their 0% FED interest rates, and they haven't lowered other interest rates all that much. They're still making all this money.

So what are they doing with it? Well, their paying billions in salary as well as dividends. And the question I would ask is, what's the social utility of this system? Is it actually something the government should be doing?
posted by delmoi at 10:12 PM on April 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


Oh, right. And I suppose you'd just rather that money be put in the hands of some terrorists or Mexicans or schoolteachers something.
posted by chasing at 10:14 PM on April 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


We had to throw a shitload of cash into the banks to avoid a liquidity trap. It was really really ugly. The alternative was worse. Now we should tax the rich since the crisis is past. Time for them to pay up.
posted by humanfont at 10:15 PM on April 12, 2011 [34 favorites]


more than $2 trillion in loans each to Citigroup and Morgan Stanley,

what
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:15 PM on April 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


what's the social utility of this system? Is it actually something the government should be doing?

I think we are past the point of pretending there.

And at a time when America is borrowing from the Middle East at interest rates of three percent, why did the Fed extend $35 billion in loans to the Arab Banking Corporation of Bahrain at interest rates as low as one quarter of one point?

Even more disturbing, the major stakeholder in the Bahrain bank is none other than the Central Bank of Libya, which owns 59 percent of the operation. In fact, the Bahrain bank just received a special exemption from the U.S. Treasury to prevent its assets from being frozen in accord with economic sanctions. That's right: Muammar Qaddafi received more than 70 loans from the Federal Reserve

-
Perhaps the most irritating facet of all of these transactions is the fact that hundreds of millions of Fed dollars were given out to hedge funds and other investors with addresses in the Cayman Islands.

Yes, even Waterfall TALF Opportunity is an offshore company. It's one thing for the federal government to look the other way when Wall Street hotshots evade U.S. taxes by registering their investment companies in the Cayman Islands. But subsidizing tax evasion? Giving it a federal bailout? What the fuck?

-
Oh, right. And I suppose you'd just rather that money be put in the hands of some terrorists or Mexicans or schoolteachers something.

hehe

The Fed sent billions in bailout aid to banks in places like Mexico
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:17 PM on April 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


since the crisis is past.

Whether the crisis is really "past" remains to be seen.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 10:30 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, I had the impression that GW Bush had ideas of his own. I didn't think the ideas were necessarily good, but I wouldn't have assumed that everything he said or did was scripted by someone else. Your current President, on the other hand, is like a second-term Ronald Reagan without the folksy demeanor.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:33 PM on April 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


When a bank borrows money from the fed at 0%, then lends it out at x%, it makes a profit of x% - y% where y is the likelyhood of a default on that loan

also subtract z% (operating costs).

Not that it explains the high interest rates charged on loans, credit cards etc.
posted by vidur at 10:35 PM on April 12, 2011


I have nothing to add besides the taste of bile in my throat and the tingle of venom coursing through my body. Fuck this shit.
posted by Wyatt at 10:36 PM on April 12, 2011


Honestly, can we start talking about guillotines yet?
posted by scody at 10:38 PM on April 12, 2011 [35 favorites]


Meanwhile other banker divas - a flashback from 2009

Blankfein said she wouldn't wait with "people who spend less money than me." Friedman shouted at the event organizer, "You have lost so much money because of this . . . Why should we be treated like the $650 donors?"

Ahhh, to be there with a video camera and point out how they married the money and make crude suggestions about what they have to do to get that money.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:40 PM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know, I get outraged every time I read such articles (I made this recent fpp) or books (too many to name, but Michael Lewis wrote one two decades ago). Then I think to myself: okay, now that the truth is out, may be things will get better. And yet, a few days later, there I am. Outraged again.
posted by vidur at 10:42 PM on April 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


okay, now that the truth is out, may be things will get better.

Look at the feet of clay in Congress. You have statements from Congressional offices like "The Congressman's statement to the House was not meant to be factual".

One of the members of the Keating 5 was the other choice for President last round. (For you youngsters - that was a banking scandal)

And one of the few Congressmen who is discussing the banking/money problems is the ever-not-popular-in-these-parts - Ron Paul.

So what makes one think "Oh yea, there's gonna be change this time for sure!"
posted by rough ashlar at 10:50 PM on April 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


The alternative was worse.

So says the people who got the money.

Why should they have been believed?
posted by rough ashlar at 10:54 PM on April 12, 2011 [20 favorites]


And one of the few Congressmen who is discussing the banking/money problems is the ever-not-popular-in-these-parts - Ron Paul.

He has some good points on this.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:55 PM on April 12, 2011


We know that our system cannot kick this problem out, and yet we continue to go along with it. Zizek says plenty flaky stuff, but he's right when he talks about when we know something is one way, but we act another way. The "I know it, but I do it anyway" of the fetishist. It's creepy and depressing.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:56 PM on April 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Related: Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito wants to wipe out the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau...an agency that is not scheduled to begin its operations until July 21...Capito's primary financial backers during her Congressional career have been the PACs and executives at Citigroup. cite
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 10:58 PM on April 12, 2011


"Waterfall TALF Opportunity". Even the name sounds scammy.
posted by vidur at 11:02 PM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why is the Federal Reserve forking over $220 million in bailout money to the wives of two Morgan Stanley bigwigs?

Because the US is a kleptocracy, and has been for years.

Is there anything else I can help you with?
posted by pompomtom at 11:11 PM on April 12, 2011 [23 favorites]


This is going to continue, until enough Americans feel real pain. I recently heard (no cite, it was on Pacifica Radio) that consumer behavior studies sow that consumers pretty much return to old patterns within four months, if they're convinced that "everything is all tight".

Assuming the above is true, one would have to be naive to think that large commercial enterprise and sly policy makers know about this as well. So, we're going to continue to be fed a crapload of soothing talk and disingenuous chatter, with the hope that people will "adapt" without "getting too angry".

It might be working: for instance, I read somewhere, today, that in spite of large price spikes at the pump, driving has not abated, because "Americans are better prepared this time". I also heard that the price increases in gas may be "front-loaded" this year, and peaking now, with a potential drop slated in July - just in time to make consumers happy about driving a few hundred miles more on their summer vacation, and leading them to thus have more confidence, in general.

The problem may be that we're addicted to a way of life and material excess (relative to our collective means to support that excess) that will keep us 'hooked' for a long, long time - liek any addict. Our collective addictions to "too much" may be so string as to make us happily grasp at *any* straw that offers promise of a return to "the good old days". As long as those in power and wealth can keep those straws popping up, abuses like the one Rolling Stone pointed out won't get much press, or make much of a difference, because addicts (we, the sheeple) live in a world where our fix is "the American Dream".

I really, really want to be wrong about this, but I think things are going to have to get a lot worse before we reach a tipping point of collective behavior change sufficient to create fast critical mass reactions against abuses like the ones reported in this well wrought Rolling Stone piece.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:20 PM on April 12, 2011 [22 favorites]


This page has a link to the actual Fed bailout list.
posted by benzenedream at 11:30 PM on April 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, it has a prison rape 'joke' but:
"You put Lloyd Blankfein in pound-me-in-the-ass prison for one six-month term, and all this bullshit would stop, all over Wall Street," says a former congressional aide, "That's all it would take, Just once"

I'd say take away the pile of money also. I'm betting there is some kind of Military expense that needs funding.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:54 PM on April 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


This is going to continue, until enough Americans feel real pain. I recently heard (no cite, it was on Pacifica Radio) that consumer behavior studies sow that consumers pretty much return to old patterns within four months, if they're convinced that "everything is all tight".
I don't think consumers have gotten that feeling at all. There's still a huge unemployment rate, for example. Lots of people know people who are unemployed, and so on.
posted by delmoi at 12:24 AM on April 13, 2011


And here I am - unemployed, I owe both state and federal back taxes and creditors are hounding me to death.

Living the American Dream.
posted by Space Kitty at 1:27 AM on April 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


People like Pol Pot and Mao get a bad rap, but at times like this, I can really see the appeal of sending these fuckers out to Virginia and putting their whole family to work down the coal mines.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:42 AM on April 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


The alternative was worse.

Iceland is doing better than Greece and Ireland. Guess who let the "too big to fail" banks fail, and who have put their citizens - and citizens across the EU - in hock for generations to come to ensure some C*Os can continue to pay themselves delicious bonuses and that shareholders will never, ever eat a loss?
posted by rodgerd at 2:28 AM on April 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Iceland is doing better

And doesn't the leadership class* keep bringing back to the voters 'please vote to bail 'em out'?

Direct referendums.......seems like they CAN work.

*Don't lead and have no class.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:49 AM on April 13, 2011


*now awaits New York City waking up and the trickle of posts defending the banks*
posted by rough ashlar at 2:50 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


New York waking up, looking groggily for my pitchfork and torch.
posted by spitbull at 3:09 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I found this little gem of a thought on a friend's facebook page the otherday:

"Remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401Ks, took trillions in TARP money, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes? Yeah, me neither."

Sort of summed it up...
posted by tomswift at 3:16 AM on April 13, 2011 [34 favorites]


That thing is becoming one of those viral "Repost this if you agree!" things on facebook, judging by my friends' posts; suffice to say that status book update will have no effect. The people who will repost it, or nod and agree when reading it, already know the whole game is rigged.
posted by hincandenza at 3:45 AM on April 13, 2011


The Greenback revolution?
posted by infini at 3:47 AM on April 13, 2011


Yeah, the Facebook thing is cute, and I'm as disgusted by kleptocracy as anyone. It's worth pointing out, though, that TARP is in the black as of a few weeks ago. Yeah, it's bullshit that the Wall Streeters got bailed out while Ryan's budget proposal screws the poor, but at least the taxpayers did not actually take a bath on it.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 3:49 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


at least the taxpayers did not actually take a bath on it.

1) Going from needing a bail out to paying the money back to having a profit means someone had money in there pocket that ended up in the banksters pockets. AKA someone got fleeced/took a bath/got a valuable service. Wanna bet a bunch of the someones were taxpayers?
2) See http://www.metafilter.com/102474/Just-a-free-lunch-that-never-ends#3634479 AKA Why should the statement of "no bath" be believed? The one party can't balance a budget, the other got bailed out by the party that can't balance a budget and pays $220 million to a wallet light-en-ing Reiki master.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:06 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's worth pointing out, though, that TARP is in the black as of a few weeks ago. Yeah, it's bullshit that the Wall Streeters got bailed out while Ryan's budget proposal screws the poor, but at least the taxpayers did not actually take a bath on it.

This assumes that re-inflating the never-ending-until-it-does American bubble isn't just delaying and worsening the eventual collapse

Yes, according to integers and formulas stored as magnetic patterns in government and bank databases, things are looking pretty good for the haves in America. They did in 2007, too. I had foolishly hoped after the crash that people might begin to question whether those numbers actually mean anything, whether they represent anything but our collective fantasy of progress

I understand what TARP means to bankers. It means another yacht docked at another port, built and staffed by working people. It means another vacation home that will sit empty 11.5 months a year, another servant, another car, another suit, another jet. It means countless human lives redirected to serve the interests of very very few

What does it mean to any of us though?
posted by crayz at 5:02 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


"TARP is in the black as of a few weeks ago"

I don't think we actually know that until the government has divested itself of all the various dubious 'investments' it made as part of the machinery involved in giving the TARP funds, and taken any losses associated with those investments.

Stories like these are why I don't follow the news as much as I used to. As far as I can tell, there's absolutely nothing I or anyone else like me can do about it.
posted by 2xplor at 5:13 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


What does it mean to any of us though?

For some, bile, a pitchfork and a torch.

For others, small hunks of plastic made from a larger wallet-sized hunk of plastic.

And others try to live the below:
Tapeworm Economics
Misery Ghost
posted by rough ashlar at 5:23 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The alternative was worse.

I was ready to try the alternative and find out then, and I'm still ready. I'll grow my own food if it means the Lloyd Blankfeins of the world starve. And yes, this is class war. It's been ongoing for my entire life now. I hope my side figures out we're fighting one sometime soon.
posted by rusty at 5:27 AM on April 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


"following an act of Congress that has forced the Fed to open its books from the bailout era"

Now this is interesting - there isn't a link to it in TFA but what act is it, how did it come about and who is doing all the poring (more specifically than "Congressional staffers")? If Congress is managing to force the Fed to do anything I would love to know how that happened and who voted yea on the bill.
posted by jet_silver at 5:45 AM on April 13, 2011


my side figures out we're fighting one

Joe Bageant figured it out.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:46 AM on April 13, 2011


I was ready to try the alternative and find out then, and I'm still ready. I'll grow my own food if it means the Lloyd Blankfeins of the world starve.

I was not aware you had crossed over into "Empty the cities" territory.
posted by indubitable at 5:52 AM on April 13, 2011


Not quite sure how Lloyd Blankfein going hungry gets to "Empty the cities" territory unless this is tied to how he "is doing Gods work".

Because The Lord moves in mysterious ways don'tja know.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:56 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


indubitable: Not at all. Cities are full of creative, hard working people. That's the very source and wellspring of wealth, and that wouldn't change if we let some giant banks fail and some rich people lose their stagnant billions. Of course I meant that that rhetorically, anyway -- a truly compassionate society would provide its Lloyd Blankfeins with a minimum standard of housing and nutrition, in the hope that they would be able to find some productive way to contribute to the greater good.
posted by rusty at 6:05 AM on April 13, 2011


In early April, in an attempt to learn exactly how much Mack and Karches made on the TALF deals, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa wrote a letter to Waterfall asking 21 detailed questions about the transactions. In addition, Sen. Sanders has personally asked Fed chief Bernanke to provide more complete information on the TALF loans given not only to Christy Mack but to gazillionaires like former Miami Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga and hedge-fund shark John Paulson. But Bernanke bluntly refused to provide the information

I wonder if he bothered to give a reason.

We had to throw a shitload of cash into the banks to avoid a liquidity trap. It was really really ugly. The alternative was worse.

Actually, "the alternative" was throwing a shitload of cash into the banks with the caveat that they had to account for how it was spent and use it to actually make loans to the middle class they so thoroughly screwed. Hardly too much to ask. That it wasn't done speaks volumes about Geitner/Obama/Bernanke and the folks who pull their strings.
posted by mediareport at 6:06 AM on April 13, 2011 [15 favorites]


Honestly, can we start talking about guillotines yet?

You can talk all you want, but "storming the Berkshires" doesn't really have the same ring as "storming the Bastille". Maybe it's the two L's in close proximity. Or possibly the T.

Anyway, wake me when bankers & their families are being tracked to an airport, dragged out to the tarmac, and killed. Then we can really get going with the historical analogies.
posted by aramaic at 6:07 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm actually surprised no one has set up an open sourced 'revolution wiki' with dossiers and geo-intelligence on economic elites, from top-down social network graphs of Wall Street companies, to nitty-gritty 'actionable' stuff like what route a CEO takes from his private residence to his work.
posted by ollyollyoxenfree at 6:17 AM on April 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


Going from needing a bail out to paying the money back to having a profit means someone had money in there pocket that ended up in the banksters pockets. AKA someone got fleeced/took a bath/got a valuable service. Wanna bet a bunch of the someones were taxpayers?

Sure. I was just pointing out that it's a little too simple to say "TARP was nothing but a huge giveaway to bankers". The government got repaid. We'll never know what would have happened if more Wall Street firms had been allowed to fail - personally, I'd have liked to see that - but the strategy worked more or less as designed, whether or not you believe it was necessary or WELL designed.

Mediareport's comment indicates the real fuck-up here. But unless we fix the campaign finance system, the Wall Streeters are going to keep running economic policy to benefit themselves. I ain't holding my breath.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 6:18 AM on April 13, 2011


Actually, "the alternative" was throwing a shitload of cash into the banks with the caveat that they had to account for how it was spent and use it to actually make loans to the middle class they so thoroughly screwed.

Why use the banks at all? The government could have done that itself. But it wouldn't have further enriched a tiny number of already rich people. Ahhh, I begin to see the problem...
posted by rusty at 6:25 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Talk about your welfare queens...
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 6:26 AM on April 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why use the banks at all?

Oh for sure, you're preaching to the choir on that one; I was one of those "let the fuckers fail and let's see what rises from their stinking, steaming ashes" types. But it just bugs me to keep hearing this "we had to bail them out in the way we bailed them out" idiocy. We did not have to bail them out with no conditions or requirements for accountability. But that's exactly what the US government told us we absolutely had to do. Immediately. Or else.

*heavy, heavy sigh*

Oh, but TARP's in the black! We've all been paid back in full!

Riiight...
posted by mediareport at 6:32 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


"You put Lloyd Blankfein in pound-me-in-the-ass prison for one six-month term, and all this bullshit would stop, all over Wall Street," says a former congressional aide, "That's all it would take, Just once"

It doesn't work like that. China occasionally executes company leaders for corruption, but it's still worth the risk to many.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:33 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


i need to use my credit card to get pitch forks and torches. no wonder they want me to pay back at 21%
posted by liza at 6:35 AM on April 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm actually surprised no one has set up an open sourced 'revolution wiki' with dossiers and geo-intelligence on economic elites

While the connections could be Maltego'ed having a central web site means one place to attack. Napster -> Bittorrent = Wiki/Maltego -> some_kind_of_distributed_P2P_database

Making a good P2P database, with keys and reputation is far more math and theory than I can do. But with such a system I'd be happy with going to court cases and courthouses to pull the public records to populate the system as perfect_ashler or some other nom de plume. Such a system could be used to organize consumers to buy/not buy products for whatever reason.

to nitty-gritty 'actionable' stuff like what route a CEO takes from his private residence to his work.

Naw, think big. Every 90 seconds or so the Blackberry says to the cell tower "I am here!" Imagine everyplace the Blackberry goes people stop talking and turn their back on 'em? They find out like the TSA workers in a Seattle Restaurant - they can't buy things from the masses. Oh they can PAY people to talk to 'em but otherwise - shunned.
(Thanks to the anonymous/forgotten person who suggested something like this as performance art. Set up a veggie stand in NYC and then use the extensive databases/data mining and tell the well off they can't buy your tomatoes. )

i need to use my credit card to get pitch forks and torches.

I believe I have a spare tiki torch and 'potato fork' I picked up at curb-mart in the richest part of town you can have.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:44 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Honestly, can we start talking about guillotines yet?

After the guillotines came twenty years of bloody world war.

Be careful what you wish for.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:47 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


No one could have anticipated this happening. I mean no one!
posted by AndrewKemendo at 6:49 AM on April 13, 2011


No one could have anticipated this happening.

Metafilter: Know won saz da snark come'n.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:50 AM on April 13, 2011


China occasionally executes company leaders for corruption, but it's still worth the risk to many.

Yes; just as throwing a few high-level narcotraficantes in prison doesn't win the "drug war". Lloyd Blankfein is a worthless piece of shit, yes; but he's a symptom, not a cause.
posted by steambadger at 7:08 AM on April 13, 2011


I'm actually surprised no one has set up an open sourced 'revolution wiki' with dossiers and geo-intelligence on economic elites, from top-down social network graphs of Wall Street companies, to nitty-gritty 'actionable' stuff like what route a CEO takes from his private residence to his work.

Well, what are you waiting for?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:10 AM on April 13, 2011


Lloyd Blankfein is a worthless piece of shit, yes; but he's a symptom, not a cause.

Blankfein is a cog. But your stance robs him of all agency. Ultimately the corruption may depend on the synergy between the cogs, but the system emerges from among the cogs. If you start ignoring or forgiving the cogs in service of rooting out some elusive 'ghost in the machine', then you won't end up effecting any change.
posted by Gyan at 7:14 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


WELL AT LEAST WE DON'T HAVE SOCIALISM.
posted by jtron at 7:17 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


And the question I would ask is, what's the social utility of this system?

Is Income Redistribution the Key to Economic Growth? "It is relatively simple and intuitive to make the connection between Fed policy and wealth inequality. Whether through open market operations or direct lending through the discount window the first recipients of newly created money are the banks in the Fed system. These banks can then lend out those funds while keeping only fractional reserves. Given that the banks, particularly today, want to limit their risk exposure, this newly created money is first lent to their most creditworthy customers. In addition, the amount one can borrow is obviously a direct function of one's already existing net worth so it is the 'wealthy' who are able to borrow these newly created funds first and at the lowest rate of interest. There are other means by which inflation tends to benefit the wealthy as well but this is the most direct route."

how can normal people get access to all this sweet, sweet cash? one alternative in the works is state banks: "Eight states now have bills pending either to form state-owned banks or to do feasibility studies to determine their potential. This year, bills were introduced in the Oregon State legislature on January 11; in Washington State on January 13; in Massachusetts on January 20 (following a 2010 bill that lapsed); and in the Maryland legislature on February 4. They join Illinois, Virginia, Hawaii, and Louisiana, which introduced similar bills in 2010. The Center for State Innovation, based in Madison, Wisconsin, was commissioned to do detailed analyses for Washington and Oregon. Their conclusion was that state-owned banks in those states would have a substantial positive impact on employment, new lending, and state and local government revenue."

cf. japan: "The Japanese government can afford its enormous debt because it owns the bank that is its principal creditor. But competitors are attempting to force the bank's privatization. If they succeed, they could propel the country into debt servitude along with other credit-strapped nations." viz. "There is now more physical infrastructure to be destroyed than ever before, but there is also a greater reserve of wealth – skilled labour, building materials, financial resources – to be thrown into rebuilding. Money is secondary. While some kinds of drain on capital can be valued, the social capital of a well organised government and solidarity among the people is priceless."
posted by kliuless at 7:28 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, I hear that Ron Paul is making noise about this. Are there more? Can't we even manage to have, say, six or so kooky one issue guys/gals who are one issue people? Who try to tack on bank reform codicils to every piece of legislation that comes through the house?

God bless Matt Taibbi, though. You go, girl.
posted by Trochanter at 7:43 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Quote:

1. The average voter is a moron. He believes what he reads in newspapers, feeds his imagination and lulls his repressions on the cinema, and hopes to break away from his slavery by football pools, cross-word prizes, or spotting the winner of the 3:30.

He is ignorant as no illiterate peasant is ignorant: he has no power of independent thought. He is the prey of panic.

But he has the vote.

2. The men in power can only govern by stampeding him into wars, playing on his fears and prejudices until he acquiesces in repressive legislation against his obvious interests, playing on his vanity until he is totally blind to his own misery and serfdom.

The alternative method is undisguised dragooning. In brief, we govern by a mixture of lying and bullying.

3. ???

4. Profit
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 7:48 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why is it that the only media outlet that publicizes these crimes is a no-longer-relevant magazine with Lady gaga on the cover?
posted by rocket88 at 7:52 AM on April 13, 2011


Now this is interesting - there isn't a link to it in TFA but what act is it, how did it come about and who is doing all the poring (more specifically than "Congressional staffers")? If Congress is managing to force the Fed to do anything I would love to know how that happened and who voted yea on the bill.

It was part of the financial reform act that congressional Dems enacted and that Republicans have been trying to defund and repeal ever since. The same act that created the consumer protection agency the Republicans want to defund or dismantle before it even gets off the ground.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:57 AM on April 13, 2011


WELL AT LEAST WE DON'T HAVE SOCIALISM.

But are you a Practicing Communist?

(Its OK to be a Communist as that is the next stage beyond Capitol-ism. And the ism spewing all over the Capitol makes one want to move onto the next thing)
posted by rough ashlar at 8:02 AM on April 13, 2011


Why is it that the only media outlet that publicizes these crimes is a no-longer-relevant magazine with Lady gaga on the cover?

MetaFilter: The website with an ASCII Lady Gaga on the front cover.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:04 AM on April 13, 2011


Rich people are going to feel really bad when all their American money isn't worth anything and it's their fault.

And the ism spewing all over the Capitol makes one want to move onto the next thing)

You mean all the jism spewing out of the Capitol during governmental circle-jerk sessions?
posted by fuq at 8:04 AM on April 13, 2011


That it wasn't done speaks volumes about Geitner/Obama/Bernanke and the folks who pull their strings.

Just in case it's not clear from this thread, and for posterity, the TARP program was designed and implemented in law by the Bush administration and congress prior to the current administration's taking office, and under the current administration, the funds originally scheduled for use in the second phase of the TARP plan (as passed by Bush and congress) were redirected from buying up toxic assets as described in this FPP to providing mortgage relief.

Just want to make that clear.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:12 AM on April 13, 2011 [17 favorites]


Rich people are going to feel really bad when all their American money isn't worth anything and it's their fault.

The actual Rich have land and assets. Means of production. And if the Federal Reserve Note goes the way of the Continental - the energy and material production assets will still be worth time dollars/beans/gold/silver/barrels of oil/KOL Meat/unobtanium/Yuan. The ones at the top will still be at the top unless the events that make American money not worth anything is some kind of massive bloody upheaval or the aliens show up with replicators and the energy to power 'em.

Besides - Lloyd is doing the Work Of God, why would he ever feel bad?
posted by rough ashlar at 8:13 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Such a system could be used to organize consumers to buy/not buy products for whatever reason

No fancy Internet site is required, and alien savior guillotine fantasies are not productive. The only way decent citizens can fight back without going to jail is to change their lifestyles to reduce their monetary income and consumption as much as possible.

That tactic won't have any teeth, in the big picture, unless a lot of people are willing to go there.
posted by maniabug at 8:25 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The actual Rich have land and assets. Means of production.

"Land and assets" are resources, which, yes, the rich do own. "Means of production" are laborers, which the rich only own until there are none left willing to trade their own collective interest for a handful of bullshit social issues.

Basically, as maniabug suggests: imagine if everyone just refused to work. Or even almost everyone. All the money in the world can't buy an apple if no one's picking apples.
posted by rusty at 8:28 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Means of production" are laborers,

Or robots. Machines have been replacing laborers for years - its why Ned Ludd is not okely-dokely.

imagine if everyone just refused to work.

Donald Trumps megabucks mean little if all the underlings stop doing whatever they do for him.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:40 AM on April 13, 2011


To clarify, we will of course continue to work. But we need to shift some substantial part of our work out of the fiscal economy and back into the home economy which has been drastically eroded in the last half of the last century.

I still work a full time job, but at a much lower wage then I did before. I'm fortunate that I was able to find a computer tech support job that lends itself to working from home so there's no commute. My family no longer buys on credit and we pay as aggressively as we can on our mortgage. We do as much of our own labor as we can to meet the shortfall. We re-use and repair our belongings, raise plants and chickens, don't travel much, have no cell phone, and drive as little as possible. Downshifting is a gradual process, and the hope is that next year's expenditures will be incrementally less than this year's. Seeing my total tax liability decline over the past couple years is the most visible indication that I'm not feeding these villains as much as I used to.

It isn't a dramatic process. I used to feel paralyzed by the knowledge that I can't jump up and commit some single big act that would "make a difference". But the anxiety doesn't gnaw at me quite the same as it used to, despite the recent awful developments worldwide and my understanding that the economic contraction of the years ahead will bring a lot of suffering. There are joys too: I spend a lot of time with my wife and daughter, and enjoy being a part of my neighborhood.
posted by maniabug at 8:58 AM on April 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Enron's scam came undone when the residents of California stopped buying electricity in the same volume, causing Enron to be on the wrong side of their own scam.

Might I suggest that, if one was so inclined, maybe investigating doing your banking with a local credit union?

And on preview, maniabug is describing a recession. Or a systemic change in GDP capability of the US, also known as permanent decline.
posted by dglynn at 9:21 AM on April 13, 2011


Blankfein is a cog. But your stance robs him of all agency.

Not intentionally. I certainly don't suggest that we excuse the people who are exploiting the system; but if Lloyd Blankfein had a Road to Damascus moment tomorrow and became a Trappist monk, somebody else would take over at Goldman and nothing at all would change. Holding people like Blankfein accountable is part of the solution. But we can't just remove the bad cogs and leave the system as it is; because their are plenty more cogs willing and able to jump in and fill the gaps.
posted by steambadger at 9:36 AM on April 13, 2011


"Means of production" are laborer

In the traditional formulation, the "means of production" refers to expensive tools, manufacturing equipment, etc., that typically require significant capital investments that are out of reach to the average worker.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:53 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


And at a time when America is borrowing from the Middle East at interest rates of three percent, why did the Fed extend $35 billion in loans to the Arab Banking Corporation of Bahrain at interest rates as low as one quarter of one point?

Well, we do have a duty to look after our friends who share our values, after all.
posted by homunculus at 10:08 AM on April 13, 2011


The actual Rich have land and assets.

Well, people only "own" land in that they have a piece of paper or whatever registered with their name on it in a government file that says they do, and a government willing to back up their claim.

posted by fimbulvetr at 10:33 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


China occasionally executes company leaders for corruption, but it's still worth the risk to many.

Except the Wall Street class are real weenies. All you have to do is threaten to eliminate tax deductions for manicures and they start to cry.
posted by JackFlash at 10:45 AM on April 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


and a government willing to back up their claim.

...Or a private army, if we ever literally get back to feudalism here.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:46 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Every time I read: "Lloyd Blankfein", my brain translates it as "Loyd Blankenship" which leads to a second or so of cognitive dissonance. Every time.

That said; I'm all for:
  1. rounding up most of these bastards and tossing em somewhere like Alcatraz for a while.
  2. Stage cage fights to get the bare necessities of life, sparkling water and a crust of artisan bread.
  3. Broadcast said cage fights on ppv.
  4. Profit!
posted by dejah420 at 10:46 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or a private army

True that. Of course, it is hard to pay your private army if your pieces of paper with number on them have become worthless.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:54 AM on April 13, 2011


thinking more about how: "The Japanese government can afford its enormous debt because it owns the bank that is its principal creditor..."

martin wolf writes: "The Japanese private sector runs a financial surplus large enough to cover the government's deficit... In short, the assets of Japan's private sector vastly exceed the liabilities of its public sector..."

which i think is (partially) analogous to the US...

also btw...

Too much finance? "Over the last three decades the US financial sector has grown six times faster than nominal GDP. This column argues that there comes a point when the financial sector has a negative effect on growth – that is, when credit to the private sector exceeds 110% of GDP. It shows that, of the advanced countries currently suffering in the fallout of the global crisis were all above this threshold."

-Alan Greenspan does not like the Dodd-Frank Bill [1,2,3]
-Chart of the day: US financial profits
-Run and Find Out
posted by kliuless at 11:02 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


China occasionally executes...

Somewhat off topic, but speaking of China, the rapid growth of hedge funds there (more information here) makes me wonder if there's a bubble in the Chinese finance sector (also wondering if there's still one here).
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 11:06 AM on April 13, 2011


-The Wall Street Leviathan
-The meaning of "socialism" in American politics
posted by kliuless at 11:11 AM on April 13, 2011


And b/c I think people should be aware of it, here's a bit from the second link in my previous comment (about Chinese hedge funds):

Hong Kong and Singapore are home to a combined 18 hedge fund houses that manage $1 billion or more each, according to a March 28 statement of London-based data provider Hedge Fund Intelligence. Morgan Sze, a former global head of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s principal strategies proprietary trading desk, started his own hedge fund today (April 1, 2011). He has attracted more than $1 billion of commitments for the fund...

That's almost $20 billion dollars in a market (Chinese or Singapore-based hedge funds) that barely existed ten years ago; can we expect to see more of this?

Bonus:
The Fed took care of the speculators and let the real economy go to hell.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 11:22 AM on April 13, 2011


Risk Rule Riles Main Street: A range of U.S. firms are balking at a new rule they fear would drive up the cost of hedging against price swings in commodities they depend upon, renewing a debate over the scope of derivatives regulation.

Deutsche Bank Maneuvers Around New Capital Rules: The German lender plans to restructure its U.S. operations, which would allow it to operate with a thinner capital cushion than the Dodd-Frank Act envisioned.
posted by kliuless at 11:22 AM on April 13, 2011


imagine if everyone just refused to work

Yes, let's.

Day 1: This rules. I'm going to go hang out at the local coffeeshop and… oh, right. I'm going to hang out at home and celebrate.

Day 2: My internet doesn't work. I can't call anybody to fix it.

Day 3: I'm hungry and all the stores are closed and I'm out of food and I can't even order out because all the restaurants are similarly closed and I think my neighbors are out of food as well because I think I heard them going through my trash cans.

Day 4: The bad news: I caught some people trying to steal my food. The good news: I now have more food for at least a couple of weeks.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:23 AM on April 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


oh and here's sandra krieger, the head of the new york fed's credit and payments risk group, on Reducing the Systemic Risk in Shadow Maturity Transformation:
...entities performing maturity transformation receive some form of both liquidity and credit support... The reason that banks are the central providers of support services, and therefore are the main backers of shadow banking, is that their sponsoring services are credible. And this credibility in turn emanates from the support they receive from the official sector. These patterns suggest two basic paths to reduce the fragility of shadow banking activities. The first is to strengthen the ability of, and increase the cost to, sponsoring banks to backstop them; the kind of liquidity and capital enhancements that are embedded in Basel III. The other is to insist on the ability of the shadow institutions to provide for a robust and credible backstop that resides outside of traditional banks...

The investors in the market segments discussed above shared in common a lack of understanding about the creditworthiness of underlying collateral. The search for yield by investors without proper regard or pricing for the risk inherent in the underlying collateral is a common theme in shadow banking. The long intermediation chains inherent in shadow banking lend themselves to this—they obscure information to investors about the underlying creditworthiness of collateral. Like a game of telephone where information is destroyed in every step, the transformation of loans into securities, securities into repo contracts, and repo contracts into private money makes it quite difficult for investors to understand the ultimate risk of their exposure.
of course investors essentially bet on (correctly) taking advantage of explicit and implicit government/taxpayer backstops and bailouts, so arguably it was less a failure 'to understand the ultimate risk' than success at gaming the system, which krieger admits continues to this day... What's the problem?
posted by kliuless at 11:34 AM on April 13, 2011


...and fwiw, here's a good primer on maturity transformation...
posted by kliuless at 11:42 AM on April 13, 2011


No, no--Civil_Disobedient: You're supposed to get together with your neighbors and a couple of guitars and throw a big street party. Don't Americans know how to do anything anymore?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:43 AM on April 13, 2011


The Emperor of Ice Cream: "Bonus:
The Fed took care of the speculators and let the real economy go to hell.
"

Back in 2008 I posted a torrent link to a non-publicly announced Treasury call, where they said that's exactly what they were planning to do. They had every intention of fleecing the American public and keeping their golf partners safe.

Look, nobody is ever going to do a perp walk in this country for raiding the Treasury. The last 4 presidents have just invited the pirates in and told them to help themselves. We're fucked, and I think it's only gonna get worse from here for a while.
posted by dejah420 at 11:54 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Civil_Disobedient: Probably how it would go in America. That's why we're so comprehensively screwed. Fear thy neighbor.
posted by rusty at 1:44 PM on April 13, 2011


We do as much of our own labor as we can to meet the shortfall. We re-use and repair our belongings, raise plants and chickens, don't travel much, have no cell phone, and drive as little as possible. Downshifting is a gradual process, and the hope is that next year's expenditures will be incrementally less than this year's. Seeing my total tax liability decline over the past couple years is the most visible indication that I'm not feeding these villains as much as I used to.

This is just so wrong I hardly know what to say.

That money you're not paying for things? That's money that's not making it into other people's incomes, with the result that *they* are now un/underemployed.

That money you're not paying in taxes? That's money that's not going to pay for infrastructure and safety net (yes, and bombs, but when there's a shortfall guess which one gets cut?), with the result that people relying on those things get even further squeezed.

And now you're decreasing your expenditures, which presumably means you're increasing your savings. You wouldn't happen to be putting those savings in a bank, would you? Have you considered where "those villains" work?
posted by bjrubble at 2:00 PM on April 13, 2011


bjrubble, I think you are extrapolating a little too far. He appears to be talking about how he HAS to reduce/reuse, because his wages were cut. He can't spend money on things BECAUSE HE DOESN"T HAVE ANY. He also isn't increasing his savings BECAUSE HE DOESN'T HAVE ANYTHING TO SAVE.

I think that's the fundamental part that most 'conservatives' completely and utterly fail at. They can't seem to comprehend that some people (most people, actually) don't start doing things like fixing their stuff rather than buy new ones because they don't want to spend money. They do it because they can't afford to spend money.
posted by daq at 2:25 PM on April 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


True that. Of course, it is hard to pay your private army if your pieces of paper with number on them have become worthless.

Seems to me that with a private army, you can secure whatever means of exchange is required to keep that army... Food, clean water, clean air... Whatever.
posted by mikelieman at 2:35 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


under the current administration, the funds originally scheduled for use in the second phase of the TARP plan (as passed by Bush and congress) were redirected from buying up toxic assets as described in this FPP to providing mortgage relief.

Which mortgage relief somehow never managed to materialize, as long as we're documenting things for posterity. Yes, Obama inherited the TARP debacle, but he kept the same people in place and continued to do nothing to 1) hold the huge investment banks accountable and 2) provide actual relief to the folks most heavily affected by the crossfire in this class war. Obama's mortgage relief program has been so stupid, toothless and uncaring calling it a joke would be giving it a compliment.
posted by mediareport at 3:10 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


We re-use and repair our belongings, raise plants and chickens, don't travel much, have no cell phone, and drive as little as possible.

Area man promotes simple life on the Internet

bjrubble, I think you are extrapolating a little too far. He appears to be talking about how he HAS to reduce/reuse, because his wages were cut.

I took the following statement to mean it was a voluntary thing: The only way decent citizens can fight back without going to jail is to change their lifestyles to reduce their monetary income and consumption as much as possible.

...and like bjrubble, I think it's a foolish conflation of symptom with cause.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:10 PM on April 13, 2011


He appears to be talking about how he HAS to reduce/reuse, because his wages were cut. He can't spend money on things BECAUSE HE DOESN"T HAVE ANY. He also isn't increasing his savings BECAUSE HE DOESN'T HAVE ANYTHING TO SAVE.

Okay, but then it's something you do for your personal finances. I was just pointing out that it does nothing (less than nothing, in fact) to punish the people in this story, who are parasites on the money you invest, not the money you spend.

Even the "sensible" parts aren't all that cut and dried, I think. Carrying a credit card balance means profit for the banks, but if you have a card with decent benefits and pay it off every month you're costing them money. Ditto for paying down a mortgage -- over the long term, I would bet that current rates are below the future value of that money, so if you actually held onto the mortgage for its lifetime the bank is going to lose.
posted by bjrubble at 3:49 PM on April 13, 2011


Fear thy neighbor

Of course I fear my neighbor. Did you see how people voted last November?
posted by wildcrdj at 4:17 PM on April 13, 2011


Honestly, can we start talking about guillotines yet?

We could, but someone keeps shoving cake in our mouths every time we start.
posted by The World Famous at 6:32 PM on April 13, 2011


Dear America:

What's that you say, the rich are stealing you blind?

Then don't elect them any more.
posted by Twang at 7:30 PM on April 13, 2011


Our party system only presents us with candidates that are either themselves rich or that are well supported by the rich (because they tend to have fundraising advantages and you have to demonstrate not insignificant fundraising ability to become a candidate). I promise, we'd be glad to elect different guys, if there were any on the menu.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:59 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, it's really tough that there are only candidates that are either themselves rich, or that are well supported by the rich. Oh well.
posted by pompomtom at 10:16 PM on April 13, 2011


Then don't elect them any more.

History shows that Americans will elect any clueless bozo as long as he promises to cut their taxes.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 10:26 PM on April 13, 2011


Day 2: My internet doesn't work. I can't call anybody to fix it.

Ahhh, so Day 2 is Cable Internet and Vonage phone service.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:00 AM on April 14, 2011


Jonathan Mann's song about it
posted by finite at 11:44 PM on April 14, 2011


This is sort of amusing

turns out the only thing Mack's wife did was own more than 5% of a fund that invested in TALF-eligible assets. A slightly different story then the narrative Taibbi was pushing. Color me shocked.
posted by JPD at 10:14 AM on April 18, 2011


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